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2019 TCS New York City Marathon Runner with a SIDS Campaign

2019 TCS New York City Marathon Runner with a SIDS Campaign

It has been 10 years since William Thomas Ellerbrock, age nine-and-a-half weeks, was dropped off for his second day of daycare and put down for a nap.

It has been 10 years since baby William never woke up.

It has been 10 years, but not a day goes by that his parents – Matthew and Chrystal Ellerbrock – don’t think about William or work to educate others about how to put babies safely to sleep on their backs. How to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). How to make sure no other family has to go through what they’ve been through.

“I was shocked that not everybody knew this stuff,” said Ellerbrock, now 45 and preparing to run the New York City Marathon on behalf of First Candle, an organization dedicated to reducing the rates of SIDS, Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and Preventable Stillbirths by educating families and caregivers. It was to First Candle that Ellerbrock and his wife turned when their son died, and they’ve been committed to raising money and SIDS awareness for the organization ever since.

First Candle also provides bereavement support for grieving families, and they were there to help Matthew and his wife handle their overwhelming sense of loss 10 years ago. Over the years, the couple has stayed closely connected with the organization, raising money on their behalf until ultimately they launched their own organization, the William T. Ellerbrock SIDS Foundation, to raise awareness around safe sleep for families in Northwest Ohio.

Through a partnership with a local hospital, they distribute onesies purchased from First Candle that prompt caregivers with safe sleep messages. Printed on the front of the onesie are the ABCs of Safe Sleep: put the baby to sleep Alone, on his or her Back, in a Crib with a firm mattress and tight-fitting sheet. On the back of the onesie is another prompt: “If you can read this, flip me over.”

The Foundation has purchased nearly 7,000 of these onesies over the past 10 years, so that new babies in northwest Ohio can each go with home with one, said Ellerbrock. “When parents leave the baby with a babysitter or Grandma or Grandpa, they put this on them,” he said. “You tell the caregivers about the importance of placing the baby on his back to sleep, but then you put the baby in this and everybody gets to learn that way.”

That’s not the only way the Ellerbrocks have been sharing this message. Their son’s foundation has purchased billboards, held fundraisers such as golfing events and softball tournaments, and built a nursery at a children’s museum that includes safe sleep messages and dolls for children to play with.

Running the NYC Marathon, said Ellerbrock, was just one more way to support First Candle and spread the word about how to put babies to sleep safely.

But that’s not all it does.

“When we do this type of fundraising, my family and my wife’s family, we all get together. My mother helps cook. If a sibling can’t make it, someone will donate a couple cases of Gatorade or write a check. And nobody has ever asked, ‘Why do you keep doing this?’ It’s been 10 years. But the truth is, you don’t want him to be forgotten. You want to keep him part of your life.”

Help Matthew reach his goal of raising $3,000 – donate here.

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